A Summer Parenting Survival Guide
Parents, we hear you. Summer break can be challenging for even the most Zenlike caregivers. You managed to get the household humming like a well-oiled machine during the school year, but now the schedule is out the window and with it any semblance of rhythm or routine.
If you're staring down the barrel of three months of trepidation at the thought of the kids being home all day, fear not: We’ve got five hot tips to make summer vacation a breeze.
Please note: This is intended to be taken with a grain of salt, because it was written with tongue firmly in cheek.
Make Everything a Contest
Kids love competition. They have boundless energy, and winning a race or a game gives them immediate gratification. Foot races in the yard are a great way to burn some energy and fill up those summer days, and hide-and-seek is a popular one in my house if it's too hot or too rainy outdoors. Alternatively, this can also be used to your advantage. My toddler wouldn't pick up her room if there was a million bucks or a truckload of candy on the line, but if I make it a competition to see who can tidy up a pile of books or stuffed animals or toys the fastest? Boy, you'd think the president (or Miss Rachel) was coming to visit.
And speaking of gratification, if you have a fitness tracker of some kind you'll be familiar with the graphical congratulations many of them offer when you hit your daily goals. Apple Watches and Fitbits show fireworks, for example. Why not strap your tracker to your kiddo's wrist, tell them if they run around enough they'll see fireworks, and let them loose?
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, all I wanted to do was be older. Now, as a father of a three-year-old, it’s very clear that nothing is more interesting than the absolutely inane tasks mom and dad do. My kiddo loves pretending to go to the doctor, “work” on an old keyboard I have laying around, play-acting visits to the grocery store or cooking in her toy kitchen. But if those ideas aren’t doing the trick and you’ve got a million things to do, perhaps your little one can play grownup by doing exciting things like “the dishes,” “folding laundry” or “pulling weeds!”
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Fun
Google is full of simple, delicious recipes that are great for kids to get involved with that don't put them in danger of burning their little fingers. No-bake cookies, fruit parfaits and even "walking tacos" are simple, tasty and mostly hazard-free. And as an added bonus, they can bring a tray of these thoughtful treats to bribe their aunts and uncles, grandparents or neighbors in exchange for free childcare while mom and dad get some work done!
Enjoy the Outdoors
When all of the other options have been exhausted, Mother Nature is here to help. There’s a world of entertainment waiting right outside your door! My little one is obsessed with bugs and would stare at a trail of ants on the patio for a week straight if we let her. The great outdoors also offers plenty of opportunity for imaginative fun, the aforementioned contests, and even making mundane daily tasks like lunchtime more exciting – make it a picnic instead! Bonus tip: For extra parental sanity and hours of peace and quiet, close and lock the door to the backyard and draw the curtains once they’re outside! (I kid. Unless...no, just kidding. Unless...)
Keep a Schedule
Children thrive on routine, because let's face it: life can be unpredictable, and unpredictable can be scary! I personally can relate to this. So now that class is done for summer, it can be hard for the little ones to initially get their heads out of the "today is a school day" mentality and into, well, "today's not a school day." By loosely scheduling your kid's vacation days to include all the activities above, you're giving them a sense of structure that their developing brains crave.